The Autism Puzzle: Connecting the Dots Between Environmental Toxins and Rising Autism Rates

Brita Belli. Seven Stories, $23.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-60980-391-9
Given that autism rates in the U.S. have reached 1 in 110 children, Belli's exploration of the correlation between environmental toxins and this difficult genetic condition couldn't be timelier. A journalist and editor of E/The Environmental Magazine, Belli explains that the "Mad Hatter" in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland was inspired by 18th century hatmakers, who after years of working with mercury to transform fur into felt began to exhibit neurological and physical problems. Though we've since learned of the devastating effects of mercury sickness, Belli warns that other chemicals still pose a threat. The author cites a startling recent study of blood taken from the umbilical cords of babies born in the U.S. that revealed therein "an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants, everything from mercury to pesticides to flame retardants." Focusing on the stories of three families with autistic children, Belli examines the myriad substances that might be causing the unprecedented diagnoses of autism in the U.S. Lamenting the "the enormous difficulty of passing any meaningful comprehensive reform," and backed up with plenty of research, the author suggests ways in which individuals might reduce their daily chemical exposure—from going organic, avoiding foods packaged in plastic, and eliminating chemical cleaners from one's household. Grounded in anecdote and reliant on the facts, Belli's study is readable and very informative. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2012
Paperback - 211 pages - 978-1-60980-460-2
Open Ebook - 119 pages - 978-1-60980-392-6
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